Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Fifth Sunday after Easter—6 May A.D. 2018
Ave Maria!

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English


“Be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves.”[1]

    The Church had us read the Epistle of Saint James last Sunday and today, as well as during the Divine Office all throughout this past week.  And one of the main themes of this Epistle is the idea that our Catholic Faith has to be more than just a theoretical system of beliefs.  That is, for it to have value, it must move us from belief to action.

    It must move us to prayer, as our Lord tells us in today's Gospel.[2]  It must move us to moral behavior, as Saint James tells us when he speaks of “keep[ing] one's self unspotted from this world.”  And it must move us to do the various things needed for the spiritual and bodily needs of those around us—what James refers to as “visiting the fatherless and widows in their tribulations.”  In another part of the same Epistle he summarizes all of this by emphatically stating that “faith without good works is dead.”[3]  “The devils believe, yet tremble.”[4]

    Now, in order that we might understand this idea of looking after “the spiritual and bodily needs of those around us,” the Church in her catechisms has summarized the things we should do in two short lists, known as the “Spiritual" and “Corporal Works of Mercy.”  You've all heard them before, but let me list them once again anyway:

The Corporal Works of Mercy


The Spiritual Works of Mercy

To feed the hungry.

To admonish the sinner.

To give drink to the thirsty.

To instruct the ignorant.

To clothe the naked

To counsel the doubtful

To visit the imprisoned.

To comfort the sorrowful.

To shelter the homeless.

To bear wrongs patiently.

To visit the sick

To forgive all injuries

To Bury the dead.

To pray for the living and the dead

    Most of these Works of Mercy are self-explanatory.  And most of them—except those that relate to the dead—are intended to help people to help themselves.  The Catechism, for example, urges those who have an abundance of material goods to provide food, drink, and shelter, by making work available; at least for the able-bodied.  And what we do for the sick and the imprisoned is to be directed either toward preparing them for the next world, or toward returning them to productive life in this world.

    The same can be said for the Spiritual Works.  The admonishing, and instructing, and counseling, and comforting, and forgiving, and even the praying that we do are largely directed toward making people more self-sufficient in their spiritual lives.

    And, of course, we have both corporal and spiritual duties toward the dead, who can no longer help themselves, and who, thereby, have an even greater claim on our generosity.

    In modern times, we might identify yet another Spiritual Work, as important as the others—and that is to help those around us to “Hold fast to their Catholic Faith.”   So many people have reacted to the breakdown in the Church and Society today by giving up and walking away from their Faith.  A few have joined other churches, but most seem to have lost faith in God altogether.  So it is up to us to realize that while the situation may be difficult, it is not hopeless.  We can help those around us to retain their faith by our good example, encouragement, and prayer.

    A few years ago I spoke to a lady in Hawaii who has been having all manner of troubles with her modernist Bishop.  She had gotten letters of encouragement from a few people, and was just thrilled to find that there were other people “out there” who were sympathetic.  In Hawaii, she explained, they cannot just drive to the next state to find a priest to offer Mass for them, and even getting from island to island is expensive—but knowing that she and her family and friends were not alone made a great deal of difference.

    The same thing was true in Japan a few hundred years ago.  After the initial work there by missionary priests and nuns, the emperor forbid the practice of the Catholic Faith by law. [5] Catholic families literally went for generations without seeing a priest.  But they knew that people whom they would never meet were still keeping the Faith, and that some were even praying for them.  And when missionary priests were finally able to re-enter Japan, they found people who were already practical Catholics—people who had been baptized by their parents and taught to revere what little they had of the Faith as a family treasure.

    Perhaps we can do the same for others who are in need.  We ought to view it as an opportunity—to give life to our own Faith, which Saint James tells us would otherwise be dead.  All of us are fortunate in that we can perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and that we can pray for those whose Faith would otherwise be threatened, and that we can support them through our example and encouragement.

We are fortunate, indeed,
that we have the opportunity to be doers of the word,
and not just hearers.



Dei via est íntegra
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